How to Plan for a Future with Coronavirus

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By now, you probably already have feelings about self-quarantine. Whether you've been sheltering in place for days or weeks, it might be aggravating, relaxing, panic-inducing, or totally numbing. However you're feeling, cooped up where you live, you're almost certainly wondering when we can get back to normal.

The experts have been as vague as they've been apologetic: There's no telling how long it will take to find the right treatment or vaccine for COVID-19. There's also a vanishingly small chance that things will ever go quite back to how they were before. Luckily, public health officials do have some idea of how we'll be coping over the next few months.

Doctors Ezekiel Emanuel, Susan Ellenberg, and Michael Levy have just published an op-ed in the New York Times about how long we'll be social distancing as a society. The bad news is that what we're doing now is just the first hunkering-down of many we can expect. Instead, we should plan for waves of more intensive isolation, buffered by periods of relative recovery.

A lot of this comes down to who develops immunity, and while social distancing helps curb the spread of coronavirus, it also reduces how many people come to resist the disease. We just don't know enough about this particular strain yet to say much more — but as the doctors point out, humans are resilient and creative. We're not going to be in our individual containment cells for the next 18 months straight. Thanks to what we learn now, when the time comes to protect our friends, family, and neighbors with some distance, we'll be ready for everything that comes next.